Welcome to this week’s state of play for the University of Alabama Basketball program. That scorching sensation you feel in your rumpus is where the Tide is still smarting from getting absolutely walloped by the Vols at their house, in what can only be described as a horror show. It was UT’s best wire-to-wire game of the season....and it coincided with the Tide’s worst. Alabama made its share of unforced errors, to be sure. But make no mistake, the Vols took the Tide’s manhood and forced most of those.
It has prompted Coach Oats to ask the same question many of us have — and the one that we had just two years ago: Is Alabama a good team, or is it merely a collection of talent?
Nate Oats: "I am still trying to figure out, are we a competitive group that does what it takes to win? Or do we just got a lot of really talented players that fold when they're in the middle of tough games against good teams? I'm not sure yet. I hope we have some competitive…— Nick Kelly (@_NickKelly) January 23, 2024
It’s one worth asking too. Alabama has come up short in each and every one of its biggest contests. It looked like a JV team in Thomson-Bolling, it folded down the stretch against Creighton, and it laughably collapsed against Arizona.
One of our comments from the peanut gallery, I think, got it right: CNO left the starters in to see who would keep playing, who would keep fighting. It would have been the easiest thing in the world to do what Kentucky did last night at Sakerlina, and just mail it in on a bad night.
The fact they were getting demolished and kept hustling speaks well of the character of this ‘Bama team...but I just don’t know that there are any dawgs on the roster.
Mark Sears and Aaron Estrada certainly put in yeoman’s effort, but there’s only so much the backcourt can do. Little Mo can be a spark plug off the bench, but he’s not a SEC-ready (and in a perfect world, you know Coach Oats would rather develop him before pressing him into service). Grant Nelson does all the dirty work, but his transition to the big boys has been a rough one, offensively. And so on down the roster we go.
I don’t have an answer to Oats’ question, except to ask two of my own:
- If Alabama has to have a shot, who’s getting the ball?
- If Alabama has to get a stop, who is your shutdown guy?
We are 2/3rds through the season, and I don’t know that even the coaching staff has an answer to that.
Nor will they, until a dog emerges.
Alabama’s road does not get any easier. Tonight, ‘Bama faces another tall task when it hosts the No. 6 Auburn Tigers. Though, per the stats, the ‘Barn may actually be better than that: Evan Miyakawa has Auburn at 3rd, and so does Bar Torvik. Ken Pom has Auburn languishing all the way down at 5th. The NET rankings peg Auburn at 7th.
Across every single major advanced stat algorithm, the Tigers have a Top 15 offense and a Top 10 defense.
But are they really that good? Or, at least, can Alabama compete?
Well, Auburn is actually winless in Q1 games, and they’ve not played many. AU is just 0-2. Alabama has 4 losses against Q1 teams, but they’ve also won a pair. Auburn’s strength has come mainly from a spotless record against its Q2 opponents (6-0). Both of those were on the road, by the way, to Baylor and App State. But they’ve not dropped one since December 3rd, and they’re not just winning games, they’re smashing people — even on the road. VT by 28, at Indiana by 28, Penn by 20, at Arkansas by 32, Ole Miss by 23, etc. The closest game they’ve played since that loss seven weeks ago was still a double-digit win over Texas A&M.
So, yeah, regrettably, Auburn is that good. Alabama will need every single thing it has in the tank tonight...and then some.
And, after getting swept last year, including blowing a 17-point lead at Coleman, that allowed the Tide to claim the SEC crown, they’ve had this one circled and are practicing their butts off. Though, the players and Pearl all recognize that ‘Bama’s speed causes a lot of problems, just as it did last season.
Hope for the best
Some better news: Brandon Miller is absolutely beginning to round into form in his rookie season with the Hornets, a franchise that frankly doesn’t deserve him after booing the pick. If it were up to those goobers, Scoot Henderson would be stinking up the greater Charlotte Metro area.
Brandon Miller tonight against the No. 1 team in the West:— Israel (@iohandles) January 23, 2024
Got to his spots easy against a top defense. No wasted dribbles or forced shots. Displayed his high feel for the game & ability to score on all three levels. He’s gonna be a star in this league. pic.twitter.com/PBqaVBoFff
Brandon Miller tonight:— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) January 23, 2024
Miller is starting to emerge as a three-level scorer, just like he did in the middle of his freshman season at Alabama.
Crazy thing is Miller wasn't a midrange guy in college since Bama didn't take those shots. But now it's a… pic.twitter.com/Zgwb3TtnKN
That emergence has come as he has starting showcasing his midrange jumper. We’ve all seen him do it (against Gonzaga, particularly). And he may be the only Tide player Nate Oats did not bench for taking them either. LOL.
When asked about Miller’s advanced skill level, Clifford marvelled at his ability to stop, pivot and make plays.
Steve Clifford - “He’ll stop and he’ll play off two feet, which is what most of the really elite scores do.” When asked if he sees any similarities with Kevin Durant who Clifford was around in Brooklyn he replied ”He (Kevin Durant) is one of the great scores of our era. So I mean, all that stuff will play out. But you know, in terms of the pivot game, and being able to play it differently eras on the floor, there’s definitely similarities.” For Miller to reach his ceiling as a mid-range scorer, Clifford believes there is one key weakness holding him back, quite literally. “I think the strength part will be a game changer”.
According to Synergy, Miller is shooting 40.4% on all dribble jumpers between 17ft-3pt line, that puts him into the 48th percentile which grades out as “Average” per Synergy. His “Runner” is only converting at 31.7%, but that’s a skill few 6-9 rookies enter into the league with at all. Although Miller’s mid-range percentages are only modest, it’s the degree of difficulty which has earned plaudits.
I’m against the gun, time-wise, so no huge analytical breakdown this week. But, I will give you a TL/DR version:
- Offense: Elite (Top 6)
- Defense: Mid as hell (60th to 66th)
- Defensive Rebounding: Pathetic (200th or so)
- Offensive Rebounding: Quite good (33rd)
- 3PT Attempted: Not as many as Oats would like, quite low for Alabama (199th)
- 3PT Rate: Elite (17th)
- SOS: Ridiculously hard (7th)
Promise, we’ll go into this a bit more next week.
Will the Tide get it done against Auburn tonight?
This poll is closed
I don’t know